Obama: EHRs for Americans by 2014

By Diana Manos
12:10 AM

In a major speech Thursday, likened to those given on the campaign trail, President-elect Barack Obama outlined his plans for an economic recovery package he hopes to begin moving through Congress as early as his first week in office.

Obama's American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan would require nearly $800 billion in federal funding to rebuild Americans' trust in the economy, help provide new jobs and make all American medical records electronic within five years.

Experts remarked that the speech was short on details, but Obama has not wavered from his pledge of $10 billion a year over five years to promote healthcare IT adoption, including subsidies for providers. Obama's radio address on Jan. 3 put healthcare IT adoption front and center as part of a plan to lower healthcare costs and increase medical safety.

The Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society has called for $25 billion to help non-governmental hospitals and physician practices adopt electronic medical records. Healthcare IT advocacy insiders have been meeting with Obama's transition team through December on the stimulus package.

Without swift federal action, Obama said Americans could face a crisis in 2009 "unlike any we've seen in our lifetime." He asked for bipartisan support and long work hours from Congress to get an economic recovery plan passed.

Obama's speech follows a Congressional Budget Office report this week of an unprecedented $1.2 trillion federal deficit in fiscal year 2009.

"I understand that some might be skeptical," he said, especially after recent federal efforts to bail out Wall Street have not appeared to provide any relief.

Yet, Obama appears to be making use of the grassroots power that helped to elect him. He said Washington will be held accountable by every American "who will be able to go online to see how their money will be spent."

Obama met with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), and other Congressional leaders Monday to discuss the scope and timing of a bipartisan economic recovery package.

"He talked about extending a hand of friendship, to work with civility, with fiscal responsibility, and with a sense of urgency, because the American people are hurting," Pelosi said.

According to The Hill Newspaper, Pelosi said Thursday she will keep Congress in session through the President's Day recess if an economic stimulus package isn't completed by then.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) said any recovery bill would need time.

"We agree with President-elect Obama that taking action to turn the economy around is job one. We also agree, though, that every dollar needs to be spent wisely and not wasted in the rush to get it spent," he said.

"And we believe that his admonition to go through the federal budget - page by page, line by line, eliminating those programs we don't need and insisting that those we do operate in a sensible cost-effective way - should apply to this, potentially the largest spending bill ever considered by the Congress," he added.

Photos used by permission under Creative Commons license.

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